The Mariners were yet again pipped to the I-League title…
It was a bitter case of so close yet so far for Mohun Bagan this season, as they were piped to the I-League title by the amazing Aizawl FC. Sanjoy Sen’s men suffered the same disheartening result they had to suffer the last term despite having an overall solid season.The Mariners looked favourites to lift the I-League trophy at one point of time, but a crushing defeat in the title-deciding match against Aizawl destroyed their dreams of retaining the trophy.
The Mariners of Kolkata didn’t really falter in their title charge before their crushing loss to Aizawl FC, as they had only lost 1 game prior to that fixture. Riding on the brilliance of Sony Norde and newly signed striker Darryl Duffy, Bagan looked title favourites but failed to turn up at the game when it really mattered. Mariners put on some really entertaining football for their fans in the season and despite not winning the trophy, provided some memorable moments as we take a look at exactly how their I-League season went.
Fact Sheet for I-League 2016/17
Games Played: 18
Won : 10
Lost : 2
Drawn : 6
Win %: 55.6%
After narrowly missing out on the I-League title to Bengaluru FC last season, Mohun Bagan were determined to win back their trophy and worked hard in pre-season to make that possible. The Mariners held onto their stars in Sony Norde and Katsumi Yusa, but had to let go off prolific striker Cornel Glen and Brazilian defender Luciano Sabrosa. The Green & Maroon unit did make some valuable additions to make up for that gap, as they brought in former Salgaocar striker Daryl Duffy to the city of Kolkata.
The Mariners began their pre-season training in July and lost their first practice match to Peerless In. But they’d bounce back with an 8-0 thumping of CFC where Duffy scored a brace, later on going to defeat Kalyani XI in their 3rd practice match. Duffy scored his 4th goal in pre-season in their final practice game against Railway FC, winning 2-0 to end pre-season on a high.
But they were not done on the transfer end, as they brought in some valuable talent before the I-League season began. The Mariners signed ISL stars Eduardo Ferreira, Subashish Bose and Anas Edathodika to boost their defensive structure, as well as signing prominent midfielder Sehnaj Singh. They were forced to change their home ground to the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium because of renovations to the Salt Lake Stadium, but didn’t show any vulnerabilities, winning 4 out of their first 5 games of the season and looking favourites early on.
Top 3 Players
Flop of the Season
Souvik Chakraborty: Souvik Chakraborty had quite the season for Delhi Dynamos in ISL 2016, but couldn’t bring out that form for Mohun Bagan in the I-League. Souvik played every game for Delhi Dynamos in the ISL and was obviously tired when he arrived in Bagan for the I-League. But he didn’t seem to show any of that intent he showcased for Delhi, playing only 13 games for The Mariners in the I-League and making numerous mistakes in those games. Souvik’s poor judgment and rash decisions also brought a sense of panic to The Mariners gameplay. Bagan’s midfield suffered because of his inconsistent performances, as captain Katsumi had to draft into the centre because of Souvik’s mistake-prone nature. He lost his position in the starting XI after an array of bad performances, as his terrible form and the lack of real midfield options cost The Mariners the I-league title in the end.
Souvik’s Performance In I-League 2016/17
Yellow Cards: 1
Top 3 Performances
- Mohun Bagan 3-0 Bengaluru FC (As it happened and Goals)
Mohun Bagan 3-2 Aizawl FC (As it happened and Goals)
- Mohun Bagan 2-1 East Bengal (As it happened and Goals)
Manager’s Report Card
Sanjoy Sen has remained as an amazing manager for Mohun Bagan, having turned their fortunes ever since arriving in 2014. He has given them two prestigious trophies in the I-League in 2015 and Federation Cup last season but is under threat of going trophyless this season. Sen’s player management this season was superb, and even though his side performed really well throughout the season, constant stumbles cost them the title. Sen made some successful defensive signings in the summer along with star striker Darryl Duffy but didn’t really pay much heed to Bagan’s poor midfield. A bad injury to Pronoy Halder left The Mariners toothless at the centre of the field, and Sen was unable to bring out the best in Souvik. He was forced to shift Katsumi to the centre which could only work so well, as they were run over by Aizawl and lost the I-League due to their poor midfield. Sen also rarely leaves his seat in games as he regards himself as a rather tactical manager who doesn’t have to be vocal to be effective. While that works mostly, The Mariners missed their managers’ voice in a few games which could’ve won them the title.
Lessons to be learned
Mohun Bagan were flying high early on their season but were pulled down to earth by Aizawl FC who despite not having the same sort of big names as that of Bagan, managed to pip them to the I-League title. The Mariners fell victim to their own mistakes and were big favourites for the I-League after making so many big signings before the season. But they didn’t improve their midfield at all, which lacked any conviction and the poor outings for Souvik Chakraborty and Pronoy Halder (mostly injured) made things really difficult for The Mariners. Bagan also has to stop relying so much on Sony Norde for creating chances, as they look pretty clueless without him and need to sign an able playmaker to compliment him next time around. They have to sign full-backs to put more pressure on the likes of Raju Gaikwad and Pritam Kotal whose performances dropped at times this season. They also need to improve their away form, which was pretty disappointing this time as got many unnecessary games which should’ve been won and Sen needs to train them to perform equally well in different environments. The Mariners narrowly missed out on the I-League title for the 2nd season running and Sanjoy Sen needs to fix these flaws in order to bring the I-League trophy back to Kolkata next season.
Sony’s performances were shining beacons in an otherwise disappointing season. While the CFL is a de-prioritized tournament, Duffy’s initial form made us dream about reclaiming the I-league one last time. Too bad he faded off towards the end of the season- was more of a liability than a contributor March onwards. We simply didn’t pick up this season from where we left off the last time out with the Fed Cup. Sanjoy Sen and the lads had their moments, they made us believe. But it’s hard to go up against a fairytale like Aizawl’s, and in the end, we fell short by a point. Too bad Lajong couldn’t steal a point- but I believe we lost the league on our away form. Absolute awful displays and results. You don’t become champions if you’re that profligate away from home. That said, let’s hold onto our stars and see what we can do in the paradigm shift coming next year. It’s going to be very tough, but this club has withstood challenges for more than 100 years now- there’s no reason why we can’t make our presence felt whatever tournament we play next season.